Red Moon of October

As is tradition, I am doing a horror story released once every weekend for the month of October. This one is a bit late, but is the first part of a three-parter to be finished the last weekend of October, rather than the separate short stories of last year’s style.

Enjoy!

October 27, 2017

Day one of the weekend! Nick, Maddy, Cindy, Mai, and I are going to be with Mai’s grandmother in Upstate NY for the long stretch. Her name is Gramma Doli. She’s quite an intriguing person, really. When we first met her, she was dressed like someone who is still stuck a bit back in her ways. She isn’t really, I promise you. She bakes cookies, and pancakes, and everything. Nick was really appreciative. She even has her own smartphone, and uses it! I think that’s impressive for her age.

Is that mean? Maybe. But honestly, her face is almost completely comprised of wrinkles, so much that you can barely tell her eyes are even there. She’s really the nicest woman you’ll ever meet. She also has this gorgeous walking stick, something straight out of an old western. Knobby old thing with a hand-knitted knitted pattern on it, and it has a few beads and this this big black feather dangling from it. It’s a gorgeous thing, really – makes me want to get my own, even though I’m not Indian in any way. Maybe I’ll convince her to make me one.

It’s a quaint old place. It’s a small brick house, probably the third of the size of most houses, with only about six rooms. Three of them are bedrooms. She already had a fire going by the time we got here, and cookies, and a whole dinner ready. Nick was really appreciative, but that’s because the guy has no actual stomach. I swear he has a black hole in his torso. Anyway, It’s got a huge garden out front, a creek out back down the hill, and it’s surrounded by trees otherwise. I actually really appreciate that Mai took us out here, even though she hasn’t been here herself in about three years. I could spend the rest of my life here, honestly.

I take that back. It’ll have to be a lot warmer here before I consider that one. Probably not having a high in the forties and all the wind. Otherwise, I’d be down.

Everyone else is asleep, including Cindy, who was already well asleep by the time night came. I nearly fell asleep on the rocking chair in the living room myself. I almost got to see a deer while I was here too, which I don’t really get to see back at university. Gramma Doli closed the blinds on me. So now I’ve seen the shadow of a deer’s horns. At least, I think it was a deer. Either Gramma Doli is very afraid of deer, or it was something else, because she was shaking.

Maybe she shakes normally? I don’t know.

Will start homework tomorrow.

 

Oct 28, 2017

I was right. It was not a deer. I should have figured something was wrong with the house, I should not have let Mai take us here. I should have asked if there was something wrong with her family, I…

There really was no way I could have known. I thought Maddy was just tired. Everyone was tired. We drove for hours and hours and Maddy works three jobs. I didn’t think anything was wrong. I thought she was fine. We heard a scream and then the window was broken. There’s this massive crimson trail going down all the way to the creek. There’s deep scratches, like that of a massive dog, all across the inside of the room. There’s still a lock of red hair on the bed.

Grandma Dolli, she says she took something she shouldn’t have. It was the feather on the staff. I thought it was for decoration, but she took it from someone when she was a kid – I didn’t catch what she said, it wasn’t English. But I could tell that it was a very bad someone. I figure it must be the thing that’s here, hiding away in the trees.
She won’t let us out of the house.

 

Oct 29

Gramma Dolli set up traps late yesterday, sprinkled things around the house, drew symbols. She doesn’t want it to get in the house. I don’t want it in the house. No sane person wants this thing in the house.

Nobody walks outside of the house.

Nobody walks outside of the house.

Nobody walks outside of the-

We’ve been hearing screams from outside all day. Gramma Dolli says not to walk outside, that we can’t do anything anyway. She still shakes at night, and twitches every time someone screams.

She cries quietly when they stop. She knows why the screams stop, after all.

We don’t know how she’s lasted this many years without anyone to watch over her. Mai says she remembers getting earplugs and putting wood over the windows every Halloween. She thought it was just a strange Navajo tradition, and says Dolli used to talk of evil spirits. She had always assumed the strange screams were really coyotes. They are fairly common up here, and with earplugs in, even I admit it sounds like one sometimes.
I do not dare open the door.
Oct 30

We put wood against all the windows, and some furniture. Gramma Dolli says we have to wait it out, until the weekend is over. She says we cannot let anyone know what happened. We cannot even tell Maddy’s mother. The police will make up a story, she says.
But they know.

I heard it pacing outside. I heard its giant footsteps, walking back and forth. It nearly shook the house with its massive strides, just going around the house, over and over again. It won’t stop walking.
Occasionally, I hear something like Maddy’s voice. She begs me to let her in the house.

She’s hungry.

She’s tired.

She promises she won’t hurt me.

She doesn’t know what‘s going on.

She needs me to let her in.

She wants to go home.

She’s hungry.

She needs me to let her in.

Don’t I know it’s her?

She needs me to let her in!

I ignore her, even when she starts to cry. She screams for a few minutes. I keep quiet and wait for her to stop. I only sleep during the lulls.

 

O 31

I saw it.

One of the boards fell from the windows, and I saw it at the edge of the trees, standing, staring at the house. It was nearly as tall as the trees themselves. The legs were too long. The arms were too long. The fingers were too long. It was all too long. It was all very wrong. And I realized why I had thought it was a deer. Its face was a deer skull, still stained in a splotchy red from whatever it had been eating, with two huge, huge horns jutting from the top. It also had long hair falling down from the skull – long, red fiery hair.

Maddy’s hair.

 

She needs me to let her in.

 

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THE VENGEANCE SPEAR: First Look

I am proud to show off the first page of The Vengeance Spear, a new fantasy collaboration between another author and myself. He’s fairly new to writing, but has a incredible talent for making great storylines and fun characters. I’m something of a ghost writer for this endeavor. This is the raw and unedited first page of that project.

There are a few hints to this being a fantasy project rather than an early 1900s era historical fictional piece. See if you can find them while reading.

His hammer clanged hard against the railroad spike. Sweat fell down his face like a rushing brook. He hammered a second and third time before taking a quick breather, and then pounded again until the spike was in place. He grinned before continuing on to the next spike.

Kayd had been working here for some time now. The job was hard and the weather was hot, but the pay was good enough that he had a place to live, so he stayed. He’d been a short but strong boy since he was young, so it didn’t surprise his parents when he left the house saying he wanted to help build the intercontinental railways. It was supposedly one of many steps in bringing all the continent’s diverse groups together. It would make a real nation out of them, the government said.

He hoped they were right this time.

He moved to another railroad spike and began pounding it as hard as he could. This time he got it in in only three swings. He laughed to himself.

“What’s funny?” asked another worker right next to him. Kayd was just amazed he’d heard him over the din of the hammers.

He caught his breath quickly before responding, “New record. Three swings.”

“Near the end of the work day?” The worker laughed. “Maybe you should tell those arms of yours to calm down. You’re making the rest of us look bad.”

“Mikk’s gotten three before,” Kayd pointed out.

The worker sighed before starting on his own spike. “Yes, and you’ve been here about half the time he has.”

Just as he’d finished speaking, Kayd caught a glimpse of his boss walking up to the area. The boss looked out over his crew with a cigar in his mouth and a furrowed brow. Kayd instinctively began hitting his next spike as hard as he could.

The boss took his cigar out slowly. He then blared a trumpet, and the crew slowly stopped what they were doing. His gaze softened. It was slight, but Kayd noticed.

“Don’t know how many of you boys were looking at your stop watches, but it was the end of the work day as of about five minutes ago. Now, normally I would be letting you all go home by now, but we’ve got a bit of an announcement.”

The boss rubbed his moustache profusely before continuing.

“With how long and hard you wonderful gentleman have worked, we are now approximately a week way from completing this area of railway. After our team and the next one meet up, that’s going to mean you fellers won’t be working on the railroad anymore. That is, unless you want to travel about a hundred miles to meet up with the next crew. Basically, you’re going to want to find other work.”

The crew stayed silent.

“You’ve been a great team. I’ll be sorry to see you all go. “

The boss smiled, trying to pretend to wipe away a bit of sweat. Kayd knew it was the beginning of a tear. “Well, that’s all I got. You all can pack up now, no dawdling.”

Kayd put away his things and began walking home. As he entered the outskirts of the town, he looked up at the sign above him. UNION CITY, said the sign, and just below it, THE PILLAR OF THE NEW WORLD. It greeted him every day he came and left work. He wondered how it would feel when he saw the sign for the last time.

The Truth Behind “Strong Female Characters”

Today I got to have a chat with a fellow writer who’s just starting out. She and I had a very fun chat that started with a discussion on superhero films. It quickly changed to a discussion on the “strong female character” trope in television and literature. It was easily one of the most informative and revealing discussions I’ve ever had with someone on the topic. If she stays with this way of thinking, I think she could go pretty far in the writing industry.

This is the slightly edited version of her side of the conversation.

*Warning: Occasional Language*

I think that women in superhero movies are often really dumbed down to either two stereotypes:

1.) Helpless or

2.) “I DONT NEED A MAN I AM WOMAN IM SO POWERFUL AND SEXY YEAH I HAVE NO FEELINGS I AM A BRICK WALL- oh wait I’m gonna soften up.”

Strong women don’t always need to be one of the extremes. Here are some examples of “strong” characters that I honestly hate: Michonne from the Walking Dead, Black Widow, Catwoman. [They’re] the kind of sexy but very stone-faced characters. [Michonne] is one of the stereotypical strong women that doesn’t like to feel emotions outwardly, and I’ve just seen that so much. I love Lori and Carol because they’re so dynamic and not just sexy, strong, and stoned-face. That’s just my opinion.

I just get annoyed when I see females like that, because I think that people try to overcompensate for women. They try to make them as strong as possible, but then it makes them the typical “oh look how strong I am, I don’t need a man, I can shut out the world”.

I like characters who are both strong and loving, especially mothers. Honestly, my favorite characters are usually mothers like Molly Weasley. She’s so caring, kind of cute and sweet, but is extremely strong.

Honestly if there’s one thing I’ll say [about her], J.K. Rowling did an amazing job with female characters.

  • Hermione – strong, smart, physically not beautiful, but so loving,
  • Tonks – kinda scrappy and awkward but a fighter,
  • McGonagle – badass but caring.

It didn’t have to be the modern superhero sob-story, sexy angst-fest.

I feel like it almost adds to the sexual appeal when the “strong women” are really stone-faced and emotionless because then it becomes the man hero’s job to try and make her feel again, which is usually what happens. Michonne and Rick, Gamorah and Starlord, Black Widow and Bruce. And it’s funny, because these “strong” women are usually actually very sexualized. When I see a “strong woman character”, I often cringe. If they’re trying to make her strong, chances are they’re trying too hard. I love mother characters. Extreme love, extreme strength.

A lot of other “strong women” honestly are just bitchy.

I do like Rey, too. She’s a strong female that wasn’t over sexualized and didn’t come off as unfeeling. At first I thought she was, but it wasn’t overly so.

Lori was amazing because although I didn’t like her as a person, she was really complex, and often got faced with a lot of moral choices. I would sometimes say “Oh, she shouldn’t have done that!”, but then [I thought], “Honestly, I may have done that.”

Any female character that is badass and knows it and then continues with it, [she] just seems a little laughable to me. Please chill out and stop defining yourself only by your strength.

I “like” Michonne but, honestly, people are like, “wow, she’s so strong and badass”. I’m sorry, but in a woman, badassery is fine, but if that’s your defining quality it gets old. Michonne is the same but she really just becomes predictable. And [she’s] always so bitchy. I’m just so sick of strong female characters. Just make them characters; complex, not as badass as possible.

A Very Sad Update.

So I think it’s well known that I hate killing off characters, but if I think it is needed in the plot, then I do so. For the final draft, I will get around to killing off a certain main character that I refused to kill off in the previous drafts. It just seemed ridiculous to me that they stayed alive, really. I only kept them alive because of how scared I was to kill them. It changes the plot of the second book slightly, but it’s important that it happens. Otherwise, it’s not realistic and the whole point of the story is not as compelling.

I REALLY hate myself for doing this. The fans will probably hate me just as much, but I can live with that.

To end this off nicely, for the final draft, I will finally do what I proudly proclaimed I would do initially. Now, half of the book is from the protagonist’s perspective and the other half is from the antagonist’s perspective.

Basically, what I’m telling you is that there is now no antagonist or protagonist. There are just warring sides. And really, that’s what I should have done all along.

Gabriel, out.

Neil Gaiman Appreciation Post

After sending a couple asks on Tumblr, I realized that Neil Gaiman is probably a very busy author person, so I decided to make a post about it so that more people could see my adoration for this author and just how obnoxiously long I can make my sentences.

I was introduced to Neil Gaiman by way of the Sandman comics. I absolutely loved them, but didn’t get a chance to read them often because Barnes N’ Noble is far away and gas money is, well, money. But I loved them. So when my brother told me that he had written word novels as well as graphic novels, I just about pissed myself with excitement.

So, after that, I got started on The Graveyard Book. I fell in love again. He was the first author I had read a book by that actually wrote like someone would speak. I thought that was very comforting, and that the plot was just brilliant.

So I began recommending the Graveyard Book to anyone who would listen. And then since I liked that one, my brother gave me more.

He gave me American Gods. I liked this one too, but not as much as The Graveyard Book. 

He gave me Ocean at the End of the Lane. I continue to rave about this one whenever someone needs a new book to read.

He gave me Good Omens, which I am still reading and may love the concept unto death, after which point I will love it all the more.

I would later learn that both Coraline and Stardust are his. I am not at all surprised by this currently. I wasn’t then either, but the point is that I’m still not surprised.

I’m terrible at conclusions, but the point is this – Neil Gaiman is pretty cool, and you should all read his books. He’s one of the most down-to-earth writers that I know. My favorite example of this is the raven scene inAmerican Gods that made the entire book that much better.


The bird turned, head tipped, suspiciously, on one side, and it stared at him with bright eyes.

“Say ‘Nevermore,’” said Shadow.

“F— you,” said the raven. [dashes added by me]


I like this one because a) it’s brilliant and unexpected and b) it’s exactly how I would respond if I were a raven… without the dashes, that is. It just takes too long to say “Eff dash dash dash you”.

Also, he’s a dark writer, but not utterly hopeless. Hopelessness is boring and well, hopeless. I like hope. I think perhaps the best term is not “dark” or even “bleak”, but “realistic”. He is very realistic.

Still, he makes the reader think. Simple, mindless gory plots are for boring people. (Well, maybe not boring, but they’re for people I don’t wouldn’t normally hang out with.) Ocean at the End of Lane is the best example. It is confusing, and I like it that way. Sandman is a bit similar to that, I guess.

Anyone who makes a reader both immersed and confused by the plot at the same time is a good writer in my mind. And he inspired my writing to be better than it ever could be before.

(I think that is how I will end this giant piece, mainly because it is midnight as I write this and I have finals to study for.)

Gabriel Penn, out.

Thoughts for Today

Write the book you want to read.

If there’s something you don’t like in books, make a point not to put it in yours.

If there’s something you think modern books need more, put more of it in yours.

It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t fit a specific genre completely. It doesn’t matter if absolutely nobody else likes it. Just write the thing. Write it for you, because you’ll regret it forever if you don’t.

Write what you want to write and screw what anyone else says.

Returning to YouTube

I have just come to the conclusion that I will probably not be doing daily blogs anymore. I’ll still do Faith Fridays and Short Story Saturdays, but that’s all I can say for sure. Those I can schedule. The fact is that school is hard and so is studying. But I can do ten-minute videos, because they don’t require very much thought. They are hilariously bad though, so expect that.

In case you need to be certain about what I implied, yes, the second draft is all finished, and just needs some beta readers/editors now. If you want to become a beta reader/editor, please email me at officialgabrielpenn@gmail.com

Reaching The End

I finally rewrote the end of the novel for the second draft. In the end, it’s far closer to what I wanted than what I had originally. It actually feels like the end of a book this time. Is it emotional? Oh yes. Does it leave room for a second book? Definitely. Am I asking too many questions? Most certainly. Should I stop asking them? Ok, ok, fine.

Anyway, I’m much happier with the end product than I was before. I still have tons of stuff to edit. About 50-100 pages, to be precise. It’s actually far less than I’m making it out to be, but it’s a decent sum. 

In case y’all want a real emotional trip, here’s link to the song I listened to while writing the end. 

It’s a trip to Sad-Mart, where your greeters are Melancholy and Dismay.

It’s pretty sad.

In good news, I have recently arrived at school for my senior year at good old Liberty University! I have an excellent year in front of me, mainly because I never have to wake up before 9:30 for any reason whatsoever. I mean, I still do because they give me bacon if I come to breakfast, but I don’t have to. Technically.

This is the life of a Fine Arts student. 

In the meantime, I plan to raise awareness of the awesome Dark Veil Saga by creating the life size version of “Leviathan Killer” in some media besides metal. I don’t want to kill anyone by fake-stabbing them, which is the ultimate purpose of this endeavor.

I also now have an Instagram (sirgabrielpenn) so you should all follow me for cool book/writing/reading stuff! I’m super sorry about those awards and challenges I’ve missed recently, so now that I have so much time I’m going to try to get to some of them. “Try” is the key word. There’s a lot of them.

Expect a revamping of short stories and Faith Friday soon!!